As many of you have heard or read, in early February the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature has inequitably funded schools. In other words the “block grant” that was initiated by Governor Brownback is unconstitutional and the three court judge panel gave lawmakers until June 30, 2016 to work out a plan that meets constitutional requirements. The courts further stated that if Legislature fails to craft a solution by the end of the fiscal year, it could lead to a court-ordered shutdown of schools. Now, I doubt if it will get to the point where the courts actually shut down the Kansas schools, but the ruling is still a positive move for education across Kansas.
Alan Rupe, a Wichita attorney who represents the plaintiff districts, called the ruling “a win for every kid in Kansas that attends public schools, particularly those kids that are disadvantaged in high poverty areas. It is a real victory for kids that cost more to educate, who are minorities, limited English kids, immigrant kids. Those kids are going to see the equity dollars returning into the system when the Legislature rolls up their sleeves and complies with the court’s order.”
Having been in education for several decades, I’ve grown some pretty thick skin and can move past some negative attacks from a variety of sources. Our government opponents’ appreciation and respect for public education are usually different than mine. I accept them and agree to disagree. However, after Governor Brownback’s declaration that school districts’ use of money is “inefficient, if not immoral,” in his State of the State speech, I didn’t know for sure where he was coming from. Possibly uninformed? Short-sided? Never in over 30 years of education have I gone to work with the goal of being inefficient or immoral.
I concede education is an easy target because it’s expensive and subjective. With the data of your choice, you can cast the entire lot with a generalization and spin it. Usually, when you speak of schools in general, most agree there are problems and there can be room for significant improvement. However, if you look at your own student, or ask your friends about their children’s schools. Are they failing? No, the majority will defend their local schools to the bitter end. If this weren’t true, bring up the C-words: closing and consolidation.
After Governor Brownback’s declaration that school districts’ use of money is “inefficient, if not immoral,” I think it is important for patrons of USD223 to know that every expenditure has been checked and evaluated for savings. I can’t think of a time when efficiency wasn’t considered. In that last few years the district has cut licensed and classified positions, shared administrators duties, reduced the professional learning budget, reduced coaches, bought supplies in bulk, reduced overtime, cut summer school and numerous other budget savings. Through it all, we tried to protect kids and classrooms.
Unfortunately, the largest part of the budget is personnel. Certainly, eliminating people can make the largest cuts, yet people are the most valuable to our mission. It’s inevitable that with further reductions, more sacrifices will be made that will surely affect the classroom.
In light of everything we have done in our district and how hard teachers have worked to provide Hanover and Linn students top-notch academics and outstanding enrichment programs, I find it disheartening for the Kansas governor to accuse us of being “inefficient and immoral.” Our job is to prepare the future workforce for this county and state. We all take our jobs very seriously and want to do the very best for USD223 kids. Superintendents across the state have told state officials we want to work with them, not against them. We want to collaborate and continue to make our students and Kansas successful.
USD 223 cannot afford to short-change students. This state needs successful, law-abiding taxpayers to maintain and improve the quality of life for all Kansans; however, it won’t happen without an educated, trained workforce. The Board of Education and all employees are committed to this mission and will work hard every day, despite the lack of moral or financial support from state government.
Brian Cordel, USD223 Superintendent